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no degree

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Okay, here's my situation.
I'm 28 years old working at a job I hate, however, because of the way I spent money when I was younger, I can't leave the steady paycheck.
I decided to take a Java class because I remember how fun it was programming in Basic as a kid and thought that this would prove to be just as fun. So far, I'm about 3 weeks into it and I'm really enjoying it. I'm the type that learns pretty fast, so I could see myself getting certified as a programmer by this summer.
Will that be enough to get a job? I'm not looking for big money. I just want to be happy and get the bills paid. Around the $50,000yr. range. I don't have a college degree, and to get one working around my current schedule would take at least another 8 years or so.
If getting Programmer certification isn't enough... would getting Developer certification be enough? Would I need to learn other languages? Am I destined to stay at my dead end job?
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Unfortunately your prospects are very dim, at least for the near term. The demand for programmers has dropped substantially and even those with a year or two of experience and with technical degrees are having trouble finding work.
However, if you really like programming, don't give up. You can make it happen but it's going to take time and effort. If you have no responsibilities (no kids), you can make changes faster obviously.
There are several key challenges you have:
1) No degree
2) No experience
3) No contacts
First off, give yourself a 1 or 2 year time horizon. Passing the SCJP by itself unfortunately won't open many doors, not without a CS/Math/Engineering degree. Most companies unfortunately won't even give you a chance for interview.
Java is a great development environment for learning and working, but it's not enough by itself to really learn true software development. You need more knowledge and more tools.
Here is what I would do:
Take 1 or 2 classes per semester at your local community college. The point here is to not to get an A.S. degree, but to take a few relevant courses. Good grades will be important because your transcript will serve at a form of certification, course by course.
You can usually take these courses:
Introduction to Java or C++/C programming
"Advanced" programming- a course designing data structures
Assembly language/Computer Organization
Take Logic 101, in the philosophy department- very important
A course in Unix programming
Just these 5 courses will teach you a lot.
Make a personal webpage where you show Java programs you've written. Build up a large portfolio of small apps which demonstrate your understanding of core concepts.
Next, try to join a Java users group. Or any other similar organization which is about programming.
This is important because some type of personal contact is going to be your main and perhaps only way of entering the field, without a degree.
To be really good at programming or software development, it must be something which you genuinely live and breathe. If you become a real expert in Java such that you can teach it to other people (like at a local Java users groups), you WILL be of value to be hired professionally. The ability to explain complicated subjects to other people on the fly is the hallmark of understanding. If you can't explain something to another person, you don't understand it.
Being in a city which has an active tech scene is highly desirable. Factoring in moving if necessary.
Above all else, be honest with yourself. If you really like programming, then go for it. I emphasize this point because half the people who graduate with Bachelor's in CS (after 4-5 years of HELL) actually hate programming, and end up sucking too due to lack of motivation. Many young people are entering CS programs at universities due to the "gold rush"- which is already over. Yet many of those who graduate with money as their main motivation will not be in the field within 5 years. It's interesting that during the first "gold rush" over computers in the early-mid 1980s made the number of people who graduated with CS degree surge to 41,000 a year. By 1995, that dropped down to just 25,000 per year. Now that the second gold rush is over, we can expect CS enrollment to fall through the floor again. The lesson: do what you love first, not what gets you money. As a side note, with only this few people graduating with CS degrees each year, you can see there must be lots of people without such degrees in the field

Finally, give yourself time. Again, expect it will take a while and a lot effort to break in. Some people think that their age (insert age X) is "too late" to make changes. Don't believe this- 28 is very young still. I know people who didn't get into programming until their late 30s and are great at it.
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Nelson Ocampo:
A B.S. - Computer Science Degree pays around US $42 - $47K/year in the Philadelphia / Washington DC marketplace. Starting salary.
An M.S. - Computer Science Degree pays around US $55 - $60K/year for above marketplaces. Starting salary.
I am afraid that an 8 week Java class - plus certification is not going to get you the $50K/yr that you requested. It may get you in the door - but you still will have a lot of learning to do - as M Prembroke mentions.
The big advantage though - is that this is a career unlike trucking - and your salary can grow as your experience/knowledge grows.
I want to relate the following story to you. And no, the purpose of my post is not to "put you down" - but instead give you some harsh realities. BTW/ I spent 8 yrs of my life going to college/hell. So here goes...
I had an interview with AT&T Network Solutions over in Morristown, NJ back in October of last year. They were specifically looking for Network people (I was looking for Java/C++ programming position at the time). I knew that I was the wrong person for the job - so I decided to ask some off-the-wall questions such as:
Do you hire people that graduate from these 16 month technical schools. The recruiter laughed - said that they had tried it - but the guys they hired all quit as soon as the going got rough. BTW/ AT&T Networking was installing networks at the time for the Chicago Board of Exchange (Commodity Markets - Corn/Pork Bellies/etc.) So division had new policy of not hiring anyone without a college degree.
I asked about salary - he said $25-$35K/yr for tech school grads - and this was in New Jersey (about 40 miles west of New York City - pretty expensive area).
I don't mean to discourage you. But you need to get a grasp on reality here. I really don't see you getting that $50K for quite a few years. Yeah, there may be a few special cases out there - but I am talking the norm.
John Coxey
[This message has been edited by John Coxey (edited January 31, 2001).]
Nelson Ocampo
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I didn't realize that the market had changed so much in just a few years.
I used to work at a computer software company for 3 years just burning their CDs and fixing some computers. That was just a year ago. I quit due to low pay and a 2 hour drive.
I am enjoying my class, and I do plan to learn C++ after this... but now I'm wondering if there are other fields where programming would be considered an asset.
I live in Southern California, near LA... hence the higher salary numbers.
I have a certificate for 3D graphics and I do traditional pencil/pen illustration on the side.
I'm starting to wonder about the video game industry.
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Read Tony's story. He's older than you and made it happen. If you really want it, you'll get there.
My little brother is like you. He put himself in revolving credit hell, so he can't afford to go to school full time to get a degree. He's trying to finish his A.A. part time. I keep on telling him that he needs to pay his dues before the pay off comes. Unfortunately, he keeps on trying to look for the easy road. The more time he spends looking, the longer it's going to take to get where he wants to go.
If you want something bad enough, you'll eventually get it.
Ask my wife, I tried getting a date with her for over 10 years. She finally gave in and now we're married. hehehe... She keeps on telling me that I don't understand the words "give it up".
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Right On Peter!
"Good Things Come To Those Who"...
Like I did!
Nelson Ocampo
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Damn... I think I am your brother!
You guys got a point.
My girlfriend says that I concentrate on back up plans more than I concentrate on my main plan... which is 3D graphics/animation.
Don't play dumb with me! But you can try this tiny ad:
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